The Battle of the Automatic Car Starters

Is a key fob or phone app the better bet?

With December upon us, it’s no wonder that our thoughts turn almost exclusively to how best to stay warm. One way to at least temporarily stave off winter’s chill is by installing a remote control starter in your car. Nothing like getting into a toasty car when it’s freezing out, especially when the alternative is literally seeing your breath inside your own ride. Today we look at two long-range options that give you a generous headstart.

The PrestigeAPS687TWE Two-Way LED Remote Start & Keyless Entry System ($340 before installation) uses a thin, five-button key fob to start your vehicle—or lock/unlock its doors—up to about half a mile away. Given that range, the two-way part is clutch. That means an LED confirms from your car to the remote that it did what you wanted it to do. You can program it to automatically start at the same time every day. And it also has security measures built-in to make sure folks without keys don’t swipe your car.

The ViperSmartStart System takes a different tack. By ditching the fob in favor of an app, it offers more features…at a higher price ($150 to $300 installed, plus $70/year). Essentially, you can remotely start, lock and unlock your car from anywhere your phone’s got a signal, even if it’s in a different country. Plus you can visually track your vehicle’s speed and location. And even cooler, the 4.0 version of the app is smartwatch compatible.

As clearly demonstrated by the rockin’ video below, the Viper system—which, by the way, includes a motor club service—is definitely the slicker way to go. But is it worth it?

From a practical standpoint, probably not. Assuming comparable installation fees, by the fifth year, the Viper SmartStart subscription starts to be more than simply buying the Prestige outright. Granted, the Viper gives you tons of features. And other than the cool factor, it’s nice to have a backup if you’re locked out of your car.

But for what’s likely to happen on a day-to-day basis, it seems like the Prestige system offers all the functionality you’ll need, it’s easy to use and (most importantly) will save your ass having to go and wait 10 minutes every time you want to warm up your ride.

Photos by Viper, Voxx International